The Summer Before the Dark by Doris Lessing (1973)

The summer before the dark by Doris Lessing

From the 1973 Alfred A. Knopf edition: As in The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing is concerned with the situation of present-day women. In The Summer Before the Dark, her treatment of the emotional gulf that opens up before a forty-five year old woman no longer needed as a wife and mother is a starting point for much more — a confrontation with the threat of annihilation, the terrors alf old age and death.

Kate Brown is faced for the first time in twenty years with the prospect of being alone. Her children are grown; her husband, a successful neurologist, is off to America to work for some months in a hospital there.

Urged by him to take a job, she find herself acting as interpreter for an international conference on food, becoming substitute mother to all the delegates, flying off to Turkey for another conference, to Spain for an affair with a younger man — all the traditional outlets.

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The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
See also: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
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A summer of self-discovery

But none this turns out as she might have expected, and this summer of exploration, freedom, and self-discovery during which she rejects the stereotypes of femininity — that, like her conventional clothes, do not fit her any longer — becomes more than a private stocktaking; what Kate discovers in this time of crisis enrages and appalls her as it brings her face to face with herself.

At the beginning of the novel, Kate Brown is a fashionable and competent woman in a suburban garden; before it ends, she is stripped of everything she believes she is.

The Summer Before the Dark is told in direct narrative, simply; but through dreams, through archetype and myth, the woman is related to the dark impersonal forces that underlie all our lives.

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The summer before the dark by Doris Lessing - cover
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